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Archive for the tag “Vajpayee”

The lessons: if only BJP will learn the right ones!

Why Advani and Rajnath should “spend more time with grandchildren”

Confession time! I voted BJP. And, I may not like it, but the electorate in its collective wisdom has voted. And, obviously BJP has failed to extend its appeal among those states where it is not in power.
The time to rebuild the party was in 2004; where Advani should have followed Vajpayee into political sanyas. It did not happen. Now, BJP is paying for it.
The next best time? Now. Get rid of Rajnath and get rid of Advani and for heaven’s sake, do not get back Joshi or Shekhawat.
Sadly, the lessons have not been learnt. Advani, for form’s sake has offered to resign but the party refused to accept it; demonstrating total clueless-ness and showing every signs of a party that has no sense on how to move forward.
If there is one lesson from these elections, it is that the electorate will reward good governance. And, roti, kapda, makaan remain the basic concerns. Frankly Hindutva is not a concern. My 80 year old grandmother, told me more than 10 years back (in half wonderment and half dismissiveness): “why does Ram need protection?”.
The lessons from Bihar, Orissa, Gujarat, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and  Madhya Pradesh are the same. Perform, provide the basics and show us improvement.. we will vote for you.
The real sad part of this election for BJP was its refusal to project younger leadership, take credit for providing good governance in all the states they were ruling and use that as a proof point for bringing about faster pace of reforms.
The real measure of the greatness of Vajpayee should be apparent now. For those with short memory, including those in BJP; here’s what Vajpayee achieved.
1. Fiscal responsibilty act: made it mandatory for the fiscal deficit to be mainatined below a certain level. This is law; Congress flouted it with impunity, BJP did nothing to point it out. Because Advani simply does not get it.
2. Limited the size of the union cabinet to 10% of the Lok Sabha size. Huge, huge deal. Remember cabinets with 114 members?
3. The Golden quadrilateral: the massive countrywide roadways project. The Congress stopped it. BJP sayed not a word.

Congress twiddled its thumbs for the last 5 years. It built zero infrastructure (e.g. no addition to power generation capacity in the last 5 years.. stopped the golden quadrilateral projects..) and freely spent money.
It frittered away all the savings in grand consumption schemes and ensured it had no savings to invest. This with the smart surds duopoly at the top. The tragedy again, was that BJP never raised a voice against this, did not offer a policy perspective or create communications to counter this.
Instead, the energies are frittered away on Ram Mandir, Afzal Gurtu, Ram Setu, beating up pub-going women, Varun Gandhi..
When you have nothing substantive to offer, offer Swabhimaan. It’s free! It worked in 1999; ten years later, it did not. I can assure you, unless Advani, Rajnath etc are all pensioned off right now and new younger and visionary leadership established, the BJP will get an even worse drubbing. Because, it will be up against a “Chikna” Rahul Baba.

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Why I miss Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao

.. Leadership at a premium

Large swathes of rain forests have been destroyed over the years in printing scholarly articles on leadership. It is not my intention to add to the noise. There are, as I explain to my pre-teen daughter, only 3 true tests of true political leadership.

Vision: You must demonstrate an overarching vision for taking the people, the entire nation forward. Your vision must be inclusive, must make space for conflicting ideologies and aspirations and would be something that posterity will remember you by. Above all, you must be able to articulate that vision in terms that everyone in the country can understand and connect to.
Team-building: You must be able to build a strong consensus around your vision. You must be able to identify a core and extended team that will evangelize the vision, buy into the success of the vision and want to execute on the vision.
Execution: You must be able to execute on your vision and put together lasting systems and processes and people who will take your ideas forward even when you do not exist. You must clearly articulate short-term milestones and long term goals. You must understand conflicts and their sources and encourage the constructive ones and ruthlessly root out the unproductive ones.

Let’s see how Vajpayee measures up to these tests. He will be remembered by the Golden quadrilateral: a gigantic visionary project as much as moving to limit the number of ministers in the cabinet and statutory measures to limit the fiscal deficit. In all these, he articulated the vision, ensured a coalition of support and executed in the face of a very tenuous parliamentary majority. Contrast this with Rajiv Gandhi, a politician who certainly had it all: popularity, huge parliamentary majority and unquestioned leadership within his party. All we got was a lot of hot air and by way of lasting legacy, the Shah Bano case.
Now let’s see how Narasimha Rao fares. He also ran a government with tenuous majority, if that. But, he had a vision for the economy, he built a team (Manmohan Singh, Montek et al) and insulated them from political pressures as they lay down the blue-print for the frenetic pace of reforms that followed. Those that credit Manmohan Singh as the architect of reforms, have to only see his record as PM with Chidambaram as a FM. What initiative would this team be remembered for? The same man, more powerful position but without political management of a master, a chronic underperformer.
It is probably no accident that Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee were close personal friends. They may have been on two sides of the poltical divide, but they were more alike than you would normally think.

As we get into election season and have to choose among parties, their programs and their leaders, how I wish we were choosing between Vajpayee and Rao.

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